An organisations ability to successfully improve customer engagement is dependent on a number of factors that will contribute to the success or otherwise.
These factors are not distinct from each other. Indeed they are inter-related and form the basis and rationale for an organisations existing position in respect of customer engagement. They also provide the means by which customer focus and customer service can be improved for the benefit of the customers themselves, for colleagues in terms of their motivation and engagement and to the organisation as a whole which will thrive as a consequence.
For most organisations, there will also be legacy factors that influence and shape an organisations ability to deliver change successfully.
As an organisation moves from a series of tactical improvements to a more strategic initiative around customer service, it is vital that the connections between each of the influencing factors is recognised and that this is the key to ensuring success. A series of well meaning but disjointed tactical initiatives will not deliver the same success as a joined up strategic approach.
Whilst delivery can be planned and sequenced according to urgency and capability, nevertheless relentless adherence to delivering the strategic aim by delivering on all key elements of the plan will be the means by which success is assured.
For the purpose of identifying the positives that exist, the issues and the recommended actions, we have broken them down into the following inter-dependent categories.
As the organisation moves forward with its strategic imperative to improve customer engagement, the inter-dependencies and parallels between each will become increasingly apparent as will be the necessity for the wholesale delivery of the strategy as a co-ordinated entity to achieve success.
In recognising the inter-dependencies, it is important to bear in mind that it is legacy factors will be largely responsible for the operating model that currently exists within an organisation.
In summary, therefore, an organisations past will influence its ability to deliver change. The change itself needs to be delivered through a series of enabling factors which in turn need to be supported by structural factors that will ensure that the changes become embedded. The result, or the outcome, will be that the organisation has the capability and the people to deliver cultural change.
• Strategic thinking
• Culture change
1. INFLUENCING FACTORS
Whilst in general terms leaving behind a legacy is seen a leaving something positive, in a business sense the most frequent references to legacies are around ‘legacy issues’.
An organisations history or legacy has a critical impact in terms of the way it operates and its ability to change. Without a strong strategic imperative, articulated either by way of there being threats or opportunities as a consequence of not changing, legacy factors can not only predominate in terms of determining an organisations culture and working practices, but they can, in many cases, prevent the most significant barriers to change and result in inertia.
In a business sense, legacy factors can sometimes be positive and amongst an organisation’s principal assets e.g. in terms of there being experienced people within a function. By the same token, there will be negative legacy factors that often get in the way of organisations ability to move moving forward – hence the need for a strong strategic imperative and desire for change in order to tackle ‘legacy issues’ and break the cycle of them resulting in increasing inertia and stagnation.
Importantly too, if legacy issues become too stifling and are preventing an organisation from operating effectively and performance and the customer experience are being compromised as a consequence, this can also have a debilitating impact on individuals working within the organisation or function as they become demotivated or worse still, demoralised, with the frustrations with leadership not being seen to be dealing with the legacy issues that are being encountered.
2. ENABLING FACTORS
Having a clear imperative and requirement for change is normally the key driver of change in any organisation. This might result from a change in trading conditions, changes to the regulatory environment, something that has reputationally impacted an organisation or any other environmental or structural impact that affects an organisations’ ability to continue in business.
The imperative might come from their being a threat to a business such as changes within the market or competitive pressures or it might come from an opportunity – a way in which a business might grow significantly, for example, from identifying a market opportunity.
In the absence of an imperative, or recognising and articulating threats and opportunities for those who work in the business, inertia can be the outcome – often resulting in a longer term reduction in performance and businesses becoming increasingly ineffective.
“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”
― Peter F. Drucker
In terms of vision, those that are clearly linked to a strong strategic imperative and in which each individual within an organisation can understand and associate with are the visions that have the greatest resonance in an organisation – linking with the constant and consistent messaging from the leadership team and how the organisation is governed and structured to deliver the vision.
‘The quality of leadership, more than any other single factor, determines the success or failure of an organisation.’
Fiedler and Chemers, ‘Improving Leadership Effectiveness’
Whilst the importance of effective leadership is accepted as being crucial to the success of any organisation, the view of what leaders must do in order to be effective is not as clearly articulated. This is because the requirements of leadership depend upon the circumstances of the organisation at any particular point in time.
The nature of the leadership required today in order to deal with the current set of circumstances it faces may not be appropriate when those circumstances change in the future. One of the characteristics of successful organisations is that they understand changes to the environment in which they operate and adapt their approach accordingly. This naturally means that the style of leadership changes as well.
Effective leadership therefore needs to be described in the context of the situation in which the organisation finds itself and what it wants to be in the future. Some examples of leadership priorities in a successful organisation might be:
1. Achieving organisational objectives
2. Addressing challenges to the achievement of these objectives
3. Creating a vision for the future for the organisation and articulating the strategic imperative around it
4. Influencing and aligning people toward this vision, motivating and committing them to action and making them responsible for their performance
5. Driving sustainable change to ensure the vision is achieved
The first two of these priorities requires a short-term and more tactical approach whereas the other three require a longer term and much more strategic focus. These two approaches are not naturally complementary and could be considered to be conflicting. Culture change, however, is much more about the last three priorities and less about ‘management’ of the first two. To be successful, therefore, leadership needs to have the characteristics required in order to create, implement and embed the customer service/experience changes that organisations seek.
Having a balance between strategic capability and tactical efficiency is crucial for any organisation. Principally, because of legacy issues and historic influences, the balance within most organisations can be towards the tactical end of the spectrum. This is understandable because of historic influences.
The alignment between the vision, the strategy and the tactical delivery is crucial. If this does not exist, tactical activity, whilst well intentioned, may not add value and in some cases may detract from achieving success.
Whilst the operational focus and tactical approach might have suited organisations in the past, as competition and customer choice increases, a strategic approach around capability to identify and articulate the need for and deliver change (for the benefit of the customer)becomes increasingly necessary. For some organisations, unless they understand better customer requirements and deliver strategic change to meet them, they may face decline and ultimately go out of business.
3. STRUCTURAL FACTORS
Business processes serve as the central nervous system for an organisation, providing it with a framework for every action, decision, activity or innovation to flow from and through. As such, one of the ways successful companies gain a competitive advantage in today’s market is through the implementation of sophisticated, efficient and effective process.
Good processes come as a result of clarity of purpose. They are a natural extension of vision, mission, values, strategy, goals, objectives and plans. By working down through this hierarchy processes can be designed such that they enable delivery of the overall business objectives, ensuring that the execution of activities in the business is aligned. The business world is full of efficient processes that were initially designed in isolation from business objectives and are not effective in support of them. Good processes should be what holds everything together and brings order and discipline to the way the business works.
Good processes are also easier to embed and maintain because they are efficient for the people who use them or are dependent on them. Employees recognise them as being the best way to undertake their activities and management values the visibility, clarity and certainty of execution they bring. Whilst they will usually be invisible to customers, they too benefit from the value they derive as a result of them providing they are designed with the customer in mind.
A key design principle for process design in organisations that deliver outstanding customer service therefore has to be that processes are designed around the customer and add as much value as possible for the customer. Many organisations are now operating in environments which have seen considerable change. For most, the days of designing policies and processes and then dictating and policing adherence to them have gone as customer choice becomes a reality, and a risk.
GOVERNANCE – The establishment of policies and continuous monitoring of their proper implementation by members of the governing body of an organisation including the mechanisms required to balance the powers of members and their primary duty of enhancing the prosperity and viability of the organisation.
The Governance structures of organisations are usually determined by the requirements on that organisation in terms of its corporate objectives, legal and regulatory requirements and with the degree to which the elements of the governance structure have authority, delegated responsibility and autonomy being determined by the over-arching governance structure of the organisation.
Whilst a large organisation is likely to have a Group Board elected by shareholders that is ultimately responsible for the performance of the organisation from a profitability, sustainability and accountability, there will be a governance structure, often made up of Sub-Boards or Management Committees that are responsible to and have the delegated responsibility of the Group Board, but whose remit(s) might be specific to particular areas of the organisations activity.
A ‘Terms of Reference’ will exist for the Group Board and for each of its delegated committees and a governance structure that ensures that the organisation is managed in an efficient, effective and ethical way.
Not having a structure and system of governance that is aligned to meeting the strategic objectives will mean that an organisation is compromised in its ability to operate effectively and efficiently in meeting those objectives – and probably also in terms of it identifying and articulating the objectives.
Having identified the ‘burning platform’ in terms of a strategic initiative and having determined the vision around the imperative, the environment in which people work becomes the next key focus – this determines and organisations capability and ability to change.
Environmentally a number of factors will impact including the approaches taken and messages communicated from the leadership team, the governance structures, the ways in which people are recruited and the way their performance is measured and rewarded and where the responsibility for recognising the need for change and delivering change sits within the organisation.
Often legacy factors are the most important determinant of the degree to which there is an appetite to change and where the responsibility for identifying the need for change sits e.g. in hierarchical structures the change prerogative often sits with the leadership function.
Paradoxically, in many organisations that are recognised as being ’top performing’, the responsibility for recognising the need for change and driving that change through the organisation sits with those people who are closest to the process – supported by a change delivery infrastructure and framework to evaluate and prioritise change initiatives.
The importance of effective leadership in relation to the objective to transform the service organisations provide to their customers is crucial to success.
The leadership skills and capabilities required to deliver significant strategic change are different from those required to effectively lead a ‘steady state’ organisation. Change requires a longer term and strategic approach whereas steady state is more short-term and tactical. These two approaches are not naturally complementary and could be considered to be conflicting.
Whilst capability alone will not determine the success of the customer service change programme, because it is dependent on resolving the wider issues identified in this report, it is inevitably a factor in whether the change can be made and sustained.
In the 21st Century developed economies have shifted from being predominantly based on the trading of tangible manufactured goods to the provision of intangible services. In this rapidly changing world, with an increasingly diverse workforce, where the supply of ‘intelligent’ labour is reducing, companies that understand the conditions that ensure maximum people performance and motivation will increasingly have a competitive advantage.
In the fast moving environments of today’s businesses it is increasingly difficult to tightly specify roles and responsibilities, employees are more frequently faced with ambiguous environments within which to make unanticipated decisions and organisations must rely on their employees to act in ways which are consistent with the business’ aims and objectives.
Reconciling the numerous individual decisions and actions taken by employees with the strategic goals of the organisation is a challenge for every business. Doing it effectively requires that performance management approaches ensure that every individual has a line of sight to the objectives that really matter for the business.
Increasing cost pressures resulting from the economic downturn have also intensified the focus on cost and magnified the need for every employee to feel committed and enabled to perform and contribute fully. The potential implications of individual under-performance for organisations are possibly greater than ever before.
But this isn’t a one-way street. The aims and objectives of employees are changing also. Encouraged by companies to take responsibility for their careers they expect reciprocity. In return for their commitment they expect to increase their overall personal equity and value; it is no longer just about the money it is also about personal growth.
In addition employees are looking for environments that provide them with value added experiences, where they can become engaged and feel they are contributing in a positive way to something larger than themselves.
When the conditions of this reciprocity are satisfied when employers have a highly motivated, committed and enthusiastic workforce and when employees feel they are having their intellectual, physical and social needs satisfied then numerous research projects have shown that these high levels of employee engagement are strongly associated with positive business outcomes.
Given that most organisations must deliver against short term business objectives and also wish to transform the quality of service provided to its customers there are a number of conditions need to be in place. Every employee must:
• Be clear on leaderships high level expectations of them
• Have the opportunity to bring these high level expectations to life by discussing and contributing to individual and team aims and objectives
• Have the skills and ability to deliver what is expected
• Be supported to develop the capacity to meet these expectations
• Feel enabled by the environment
• Be given feedback on the degree to which their performance is meeting expectations
• Be recognised and rewarded for achieving what is expected
“Organisational culture is not just another piece of the puzzle, it is the puzzle.”
Culture is a complex conceptual area for managers and leaders to understand. Even commentators and academics differ in their view as to what exactly culture is…
• “The way things are done around here”
• Specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organisation that control the way they interact with each other and stakeholders
• A complex set of attitudes, beliefs, values, opinions, rules of behaviour, ideologies, habitual responses, language, rituals, quirks and other characteristics of a particular group
• An unconscious set of collective beliefs and assumptions steering values and through them the artefacts and actions of an organisation
• The deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation, that operate subconsciously and define in a ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organisation’s view of itself and its environment
However we define it, culture is vitally important to an organisation since it shapes everything an organisation does.
There is an inextricable link between culture and performance. Companies that cultivate their culture have a competitive edge.
Organisational culture has a number of important characteristics. None of these by themselves represents the culture of an organisation, however collectively they can reflect an organisation’s culture:
Fundamental assumptions and beliefs: The basic assumptions and beliefs, positive and negative and based on each individual’s past experience from within the organisation and outside it. These drive how an individual sees the world and what they believe to be right, good and proper.
Values and attitudes: These are the values and attitudes the organisation advocates and expects participants to adopt and use. They usually reflect the values and attitudes of leaders in the organisation, except when leadership regularly changes or is ineffective, in which case it will follow influential non- leaders. These values and attitudes govern how employees and customers are treated.
The way we do things around here: When organisational participants interact with each other they use a common language, terminology and rituals. These are the behavioural norms, the expected behaviour of a group and the agreed way of behaving within the organisation.
Behaviours: The observable patters of behavior in the organisation. What you see people doing and what you hear them saying.
Environment: The visible signs of the culture of an organisation. The artifacts you can see which result from the inner circles of the model.
The goal of a transformational change in the quality of customer service in organisations is inextricably linked to changing the culture of the function. There are usually elements of the existing culture which will support, enable and accelerate the changes required, and issues which if left unaddressed will constrain it, or prevent it altogether.